The Homeless World Cup: An innovative 'third way' for social good?
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sportanddev hears from Mel Young, the founder of the Homeless World Cup, on their newly created social enterprise, which introduces a potential ‘third way’ for the sector to achieve growth and a more sustainable impact.

The Homeless World Cup (HWC) Foundation provides support to 74 in-country partners who deliver programmes using football as a ‘hook’ to reach homeless populations. The main purpose of the foundation is to share information amongst the partners in the HWC network, coordinate their efforts and organise various conferences and events, most notably the annual HWC tournament. Throughout the conversation, Mel repeatedly emphasised that although the HWC has changed the lives of many people around the world, he felt the organisation could ‘do more’.

“So we’ve set up the Supporters Club up as a social enterprise – part of it is looking at new ways of bringing in finance but also part of it is about growing our supporter base.”

A social enterprise is defined as an organisation with primarily social objectives, whose surpluses are reinvested for the purpose of achieving those objectives rather than creating profits for shareholders. Mel explains that the Supporters Club sits alongside the foundation and is a response to this desire to expand the HWC’s impact through:
  1. Attracting members and growing the membership base up to one million
  2. Attracting sponsors
The Supporters Club allows members to join a ‘virtual online stadium’ for a one-off financial contribution. Supporters gain access to competitions, VIP packages, special events and merchandise offers, with proceeds providing resources for the foundation’s objectives.

“It’s about trying to create ways in which we can generate funds ourselves, but it’s also about building capacity and bringing those with various expertise together so that we’re sustainable.”

A successful Supporters Club allows the HWC to overcome one of the third sector’s biggest obstacles, namely the inability to scale-up and ensure that a successful social intervention reaches more beneficiaries. However, it’s abundantly clear that it’s more than an exercise in securing sustainable funding, but identifying and using the unique capabilities that make the organisation so successful in the first place.

“It’s about telling a story. By having the international event we’re saying they’re actually human beings, some of whom are good at football and some who aren’t, and they’re just people.”

Mel explains that the Supporters Club is largely an extension of this desire to challenge stereotypes and to reach as many people as possible with this message. The Supporters Club builds on the annual tournament in this regard, allowing supporters to follow the work of the foundation and its partners year round.

Supporters are provided with their own ‘locker room’ allowing them to keep up to date with news, events, player profiles and competitions. It also acts as an information and communication portal providing information and statistics on homelessness, combined with an online forum allowing supporters and partners to connect and network.

“One of the reasons we’re doing this is because we’re global… any person in the world can join in with what we see as a worldwide movement.”

The HWC is utilising its global network, the international brand built through the annual tournament and the foundation’s various partners. Creating and developing a successful social enterprise is difficult; it requires imagination, ingenuity, ambition and a development sector that is open to its possibilities. At the heart of it is one key ingredient: “We want to do more”.